Sabine Schmitz died a few days ago. She was only 51 and had a long and painful battle with cancer.
You probably know her from her 17 years on Top Gear. But she was much more than that.
One of Sabine’s major claims to fame was that she could make famous people, including top gun pilots, throw up when they were passengers in her cars. She also was one of the great race drivers, a Top Gear host, a helicopter pilot, an accomplished horse rider, pub owner and the fastest taxi driver in the world. Sabine and British race driver Dale Lomas ran a $450-a-lap “taxi” service around the track that Jackie Stewart called the Green Hell because it’s the scariest race circuit in the world.
Sabine is the first and only woman to win the 24-hour Nurburgring race in 50 years. She won first in 1996 and backed up for another first in 1997. She won another 43 races for BMW. Now she probably had a slight advantage with her parents owning the pub next door to the track where drivers like Ascari and Piquet used to stay. She first drove a circuit at six months old (in the baby seat in the back of Dad’s car), went out on the track in “Mum’s BMW” at 17 (“Mum didn’t know”) and lied about her age to the track officials. She had done more than 20,000 laps since then.
“Thousands of people threw up, but only one died after a taxi lap,” and the person who died did so half an hour later, so “it wasn’t my fault”.
As friend and fellow taxi driver Dale Lomas said: “For thousands of Nurburgring fans around the world, Sabine was much, much more than the stereotype-busting ‘Queen of the ‘Ring’ that the BBC loved to portray. She was the Queen of the Nurburgring Nordschleife, sure. But she was also BMW and BMW Motorsport back when ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’ had gravitas and actually meant something. She was bullshit-free, cold beers in a smokey PK after a hard day driving the Ring-Taxi sideways through Brunnchen. She was Eifel-Blitz at 2am on a rainy Sunday morning, she was Frikadelli Porsche carving through the pack after a pitlane start.
“She was cowboy boots, quadbikes, helicopters and horses. She lived the life, walked the walk and talked the talk. She was a hero for a whole generation of close-to-middle-aged car guys, back before ‘woke’ was even a thing. And now she’s gone, but she’ll never, ever be forgotten.”
F1 commentator Murray Walker also died this week, aged 97. Walker came from a racing family, was a tank commander and captain in the second big one, worked in advertising and was credited with the slogan “a Mars a day, helps you work, rest and play” (although recent scientific research shows it’s actually Coopers Sparkling that does that), commentated for the first time 73 years ago, stood up to call F1 full time in 1978, called the Bathurst 1000, came second with Colin Bond in Targa Tasmania and gave the world Murrayisms.
And my favourite: “How you can crash into a wall without it being there in the first place is beyond me!”
CR Schuppan 1991 Porsche 962.
OK, so back to normal transmission with this week’s catch of the day. Yup it’s from Cedric Boutsen’s Boutsen Classic Cars on the Parramatta Road of Monte Carlo, Grimalda Street. Cedric is the son of legendary F1 driver, Thierry, who went from fast cars to used jets and then used fast cars. Of course, mention this column to Ced for a free balloon for the kiddies when you pop in to buy the street-legal three-owner, one of six ever made, 1991 Porker Schuppan 962CR missile. These were about $2m new, good for 370km/h on any freeway and once the traffic light turns green it will get you to 100km/h in three seconds.
Talking of missiles, our Ukrainian correspondent, Sissy Suzuki, reports that Captain Anatoly Prokofiev rammed his VW Touareg into one of his air force’s 24 MiG-29UBs ($5m used: weapons not included) causing it to catch fire, burn to the ground and hence void its warranty. The front end of the VW is not pretty and Captain Prokofiev suffered some injuries to his chest and pride. It’s alleged that the Captain had a skinful of Chernihivske (local version of Coopers pale ale) before finding the MiG while it was being towed across the runway. If you’re thinking of doing the same after the Kensi on Monday, sorry we are all booked out. Let you know when the next WART night is on in a town near you.
Meanwhile, your opportunity for racing immortality on Ben and Michael Kavich’s pink Mitsubishi Evo X. Part of our own Garth Walden’s team, Ben and Mick’s mother and grandmother had cancer, while Ben’s wife Toula was diagnosed in 2016. The brothers “Race for a Cure” car has raised a $100k over the last few years for Breast Cancer Trials. Donate any amount and you go into the draw to win $3k’s worth of advertising space on the Evo. Last Sunday at Phillip Island the big winners were the Audi, Melbourne Performance Centre team of Chaz Mostert and Luke King. Unfortunately (small joke) Alfa Romeo driver Lee Holdsworth dropped from second to third.
And happy birthday to the E-Type. On March 15, 1961 the first of the most beautiful cars in the modern world rolled off the line. Five times cheaper than a Fezzer, cheaper than a Volvo P-1800, today you’ll pay $200k for a really good one, $450k for a totally rebuilt car and $880k for a new one.